Meditation reduces stress and anxiety. But meditation can also affect your brain. Here are three ways meditation improves sensory perception.
When we say someone is “very perceptive,” we’re usually referring to their insight into other people’s emotional states, motivations, or ulterior motives. But perception begins with the senses and how the brain processes the information that the senses absorb.
Meditation can have direct effects on the brain. Here are three ways meditation improves sensory perception.
Increases Gray Matter Volume
Meditation can increase gray matter volume (GMV) in experienced practitioners. The areas of the brain that govern attention, decision making, and interoception are larger on brain scans than in the brains of non-meditators.
A Harvard University researcher found that persons aged 40–50 who have practiced meditation for years maintained the youthful brain volume of people 20 to 30 years old.
A particularly intriguing finding came as the result of a study of experienced Buddhist meditation practitioners. The study showed that those asked to add two hours of concentrated meditation on the state of one of their index fingers developed improved tactile sensation in that finger.
Fosters Improved Attention
Meditation is a practice that requires focused attention on your breath, a repeated word (a mantra), or another fixed point of attention. Simultaneously, meditation develops the ability to observe but not be derailed by distractions in your environment. The focus is on the present moment. Thoughts that inevitably come into the mind can drift by without draining energy or attention from the relaxed state of awareness that meditation develops.
Shrinks the Fight or Flight Center
People who practice meditation often report that they feel less stressed. But studies, including those conducted by Dr. Lazar at Harvard, have demonstrated that there is a physiological phenomenon associated with meditation-induced stress relief. The amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers the “fight or flight” stress reaction, shrinks with consistent meditation practice. When meditation is a regular part of a person’s day, they change the brain’s reaction to stress. This, in turn, can reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure.
Repeated consistent meditation practice changes the brain and improves sensory perception. Just as therapists help develop sensory awareness in children with sensory processing disorders using repeated sensory integration activities, neurotypical people can use regular meditation to improve awareness, attention, and cognition.